Mainstream culture has finally caught up with us. A reality show about American Muslims facing all that life has to offer has promoted tolerance and humanity, which seemed lost over the past decade.
TLC’s All American Muslim is a reality show that offers a look into the Muslim community of Dearborn, Michigan. The aim is to offer a personal look into the lives of a few American Muslim families. Through the show, we witness the challenges they face beyond the community and within it. But not all viewers were pleased with TLC’s goals.
In the show, Shadia Amen is a single mom who marries a Muslim convert, Jeff. Newlyweds Nadar and Nawal Aoude are preparing for the arrival of their son. Fouad Zaban is coaching the local high school football team despite fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. An ambitious businesswoman, Nina Bazzy-Aliahmad is planning to open her own nightclub in downtown Dearborn. Mike and Angela Jaafar are juggling work and parenting with their outreach efforts to bring more awareness about the American Muslim community. The controversy over All American Muslim has underscored three national discourses over religion and the media, humanity, and how a community mobilizes itself against intolerance.
But when pressure from groups like the Florida Family Association claimed the show was misrepresenting Muslims as not being extremists, companies like Lowe's pulled their advertisements. The company's move is rooted in a bigotry that threatens how we perceive and understand others.
All American Muslim is an undertaking that has been long overdue. Representations of Muslims in mainstream media have, for the most part, been limited to news about happenings beyond our borders. Reality television is a window into the lives of some of the 2.6 million Muslims who are neighbors, friends, teachers, and co-workers to the rest of the country. To pay homage to an ideal of freedom is to put prejudice on the side for an educational endeavor such as this one.
Despite our overexposure to reality television about every subject imaginable, the concept at the core is to bring humanity closer together. Each unique experience is an opportunity to learn, and a chance to touch the lives of others. All American Muslim and its cast is a show about human beings and their pursuit of a satisfying life.
As soon as Lowe’s announced its move to pull advertisements, the American Muslim community swiftly organized a response campaign that wasted no time. The campaign lit up Twitter and soon moved to a national campaign with over 200,000 signatures. The community’s mobilization efforts are a testament to a resiliency that will not be quelled by hatred.
Not all American Muslims are delighted by the content of the show. Yet, they still appreciate the effort on the part of a large network to include some of the community’s experiences. Bigotry has had the opposite effect. There is no shame; now American Muslims and others have reawakened a movement for freedom of religion and speech. Reality television, despite how irritating it may be, is essentially about learning. It’s called “The Learning Channel,” after all.
Photo Credit: On Being